Community in Carpooling: Lessons My Dead Car (and Living Community) Taught Me


I knew that fateful February day in 2009, when Mom and I first brought home my 2001 Pontiac Grand Am GT, that it was not long for this world.

The first day, Mom and I found coolant leaking onto the pavement, so I couldn’t even take it back to Bridgewater for another week. In May, right before finals week, it overheated while I was driving on 81 and had to stay in the shop for almost two weeks. To this day, I still feel resentment when I think of watching all of my friends head home for their first college summer break in properly functioning cars while I sat in my empty, packed up room waiting for my car to get me home safely again. At least twice a year after these instances, the car would overheat on me and need more coolant, usually during the most inconvenient times. One such instance saw me briefly stranded at Bridgewater (again) on the last day of classes before Thanksgiving break. I swear that vehicle hated going home…

It was dangerous to go on long trips (beyond 2 hours) with it. The only trips I ever felt comfortable taking with it were to and from BC, home, NOVA, and basic errands, and even those didn’t guarantee an overheat-free journey. I constantly needed a container of coolant in my trunk, lest I find myself unprepared and stuck on the side of the road praying for a miracle to keep my car going. And perhaps the worst part: having to blast the heat in already scorching summer weather to keep the engine at a normal temperaature.

This car could really put me through hell.

And almost 2 weeks ago, it landed on its deathbed at an AAMCO shop, diagnosed with a fatal cracked head gasket that would cost at least $1600 to repair. Which would be way too much to invest in a car that is already worth half its value (or less) due to the previously mentioned issues.

While I resented this car’s problems in the duration of our time together, I was nonetheless saddened by its demise. In good times and bad, the car had gotten me from Point A to Point B in semi-reliable fashion, and for that I was eternally grateful. However, more than despair, I felt anxiety. How would I get to my two jobs throughout the week? How would I hang out with people and get to church? How would I get groceries or go to the bank? In short, I was seriously worried for my life without this panic-attack-inducing car. Because a hazardous car was better than no car at all. For a long time, I thought this car essentially held the keys to my survival.

And while I knew that other people I knew had cars and open schedules, an extrovert like me has some strong introverted tendencies. one of the strongest being that I don’t like to initiate conversations. Once they are initiated, I’m all in and am more than happy to talk the other person’s ear off, but usually, I tend to let people come to me. Combine that with my fear of rejection and vulnerability to others, both of which are probably co-related, and I found myself in quite the pickle.

Because the moment I realized my car was essentially dead, I realized I didn’t have the option of keeping to myself and not leaping out of my comfort zone anymore. My life immediately became more dependent on the provisions of others, which involved me being vulnerable and someone being receptive. And over a week into this, my car’s demise has taught me a lot about community.

Being vulnerable and open with others about this basic necessity of getting from Point A to Point B has led me to make beautiful connections in the most simple, everyday tasks. Going to the grocery store with my dear friend and former roommate Candace allowed us time to catch up while also finding an awesome Pandora station full of hilarious Broadway tunes. Carpooling to my friends Ali and Andy’s wedding allowed me to properly catch up with some awesome housemates I hadn’t seen in at least a year. I even got to connect with my manager at Bed Bath and Beyond when he graciously gave me a ride home after work one evening when no one else was available. And my roommate Erin showed deep trust in me when she let me borrow her own car so I could take Laney, my Little, to celebrate her last day of 7th grade by going to see Epic.

Suddenly, my solo commutes spent in the company of cruddy pop music and even more cruddy radio ads became times of catch up and bonding with some amazing people. The minutes I would spend driving to errands, letting my mind aimlessly wander through my seemingly never-ending to-do list, became times of sharing my dreams, fears, joys, and so much more with others, and they shared with me, all in the midst of checking off our routine checklists.

Basically, losing my car, and with it a small piece of my own independence, thrust me into the loving embrace of my community in a way I never imagined.

And through these experiences, I’m learning more and more that community is a lot about getting out of my own head and coming back to reality, a reality that demands my complete presence with myself, my surroundings, and others. I’m learning that it’s about figuring out who I am in the loving embrace of people who are here with me and for me by showing up when I need them most. In this community, we make room for each other by adjusting work and personal schedules and arranging rides in the midst of our already busy lives. Now, I get a little giddy when I get a ride arranged, because I know it’s time with someone I love dearly and who loves me enough to help me out when I’m in a rut. It builds trust and love, and through their devotion, these amazing people have shown this insecure girl that she is loved and worthy of being around. Sharing my stories on car rides and having these amazing people share their own stories with me reminds me of the sacredness of being close and open with others, of knowing I am being trusted and that I can trust them. Whether we are sharing joys and struggles in relationships, wisdom we’ve learned from recent or past experiences, or simply chatting about favorite Disney movies and making a trip to Sweet Frog, these commutes bind us closer together and build foundations for deeper relationships. For a girl with abandonment/trust issues and intense insecurities, these are gifts that keep on giving.

And they have shown me that life abundant isn’t in having everything; it’s in everyone sharing what they already have. These amazing people have shared their vehicles and, more importantly, their time and lives with me, and it is amazing just how much we can take care of each other if we simply shift our perspectives and schedules to intentionally make room for each other. Our daily routines hold so much opportunity for showing love to others if we simply allow time and space to embrace these opportunities instead of letting them wander by in the name of “getting stuff done.”

I like to think this is a big part of what God meant in describing Himself as the God who Provides. So instead of placing my trust in one of my own possessions, and even my own routine, I have now placed more trust in the loved ones who live, breathe, love, and provide for me with what they have received and for what they make room. 

So while I still get a big thrill in those now rare instances of driving on my own, and being allowed to surf through any radio station I want, and feel the freedom of driving on my own without wondering who will pick me up next, I still harbor deep joy in my carpool community, in the daily sharing, caring, and love that is always evident.

Because this community has both affirmed that I am someone worth loving and serving, and in doing so, have reminded me that all I encounter are worthy of the same love and grace that has been shown to me. And that is one of the biggest lessons a loving community can teach any one of us.

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